By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
The unfortunate truth, if they are willing to accept it, is that the Red Sox are bipolar. They need help. And we can only hope that the Red Sox have reached the point where they are willing to admit it.
Frustrated? You should be. Living with the Sox for the last nine years has been an entirely unmanageable experience, so here’s what the Red Sox need to awaken to: their fan base has all but given up. It’s on the Sox now. Pandemic or no pandemic, interest in the Sox has dipped to generational lows in the last 12-18 months, and those of us on this side of it now can’t help but throw up our hands and ask a very simple question:
Yesterday via the internet, Sox executives conducted a season-ending press conference in the wake of The Season That Never Was, an entirely forgettable 2020 campaign that left the Sox again curled up in a ball in the basement of the American League East. There is simply no other way to describe it. It’s really just sad. Baseball in Boston has been downright schizophrenic over the last decade, since the departure of Theo Epstein really, and the Sox have oscillated between impressive levels of extraordinary achievement and dips of deep depression.
The lows have now far outweighed the highs, and everybody knows it.
“I can tell you that it wasn’t by design,” Sox president Sam Kennedy told reporters yesterday. “Championship teams, you’d like to say we’re by design. I think we had a lot of good decision-making in winning those championships, but we also had a lot of good fortune. And so I can’t point my finger on one reason or two reasons why we’ve had sort of these really high highs and low lows.”
Added Kennedy: “As we go forward, we are looking to bring that consistency to the table, and be knocking on the door of a division championship, pennant, and ultimately a World Series with greater regularity and greater frequency.”
Look, the Red Sox are easy targets and they always have been. Over decades, some of that criticism has been fair of some of it has been downright irrational. But if the fall of 2020 is not rock bottom, the Red Sox are in deeper trouble than anyone could possibly imagine.
As we know, the Sox have operated under the ownership of John Henry for the last 19 years, though the Henry group took over in the spring of 2002, after the 2002 team was already built. Following that season, Epstein was hired as GM and the real building began. As such, the Sox can now be divided into two tidy, nine-year samples – the one ranging from 2003-11 (under Epstein) and the one ranging from 2012 to the present.
On paper, here’s what that looks like:
Know what happened between those two periods? Trauma. A schism. Epstein and manager Terry Francona got sick of each other. Both got sick of ownership and upper management. Since then, the Red Sox have lacked any sort of consistency or direction, which has led to unsteady, irrational thinking. It’s like they went off their meds.
Truth be told, this isn’t about Epstein – though he is certainly part of it. When Theo took the Chicago Cubs job, he did so with the clear understanding that the organization needed to be rebuilt from the inside out, not entirely unlike what Chaim Bloom is facing now. (The Cubs were actually worse off.) Epstein spoke of a five-year plan and actually got the Cubs into contention in his fourth season.
Since that time, beginning in 2015, the Cubs have won the third-most games in baseball, behind only the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros. Their .580 winning percentage is strikingly similar to the .575 the Sox posted under Epstein during his nine-year tenure here. Cubs fans certainly have been agitated that the team hasn’t won a second World Series since Chicago ended its championship drought in 2016, but those are first-world problems. They haven’t come even remotely close to finishing last.
Is Bloom the next Epstein – or at least something far closer to it than Ben Cherington or Dave Dombrowski? Maybe. Let’s hope so. Because while the Red Sox actually have won one more title than Epstein since his departure, they’ve lived an elevator existence that has brought their fan base to the exhaustive point of emotional detachment.
At the end of the day, they’re just getting too hard to live with anymore.
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